Tag Archive: Ancient Land of Egypt


Thursday 12 October 2017

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi extended for the second time a state of emergency first declared following deadly church bombings in April, in a decree issued in the official gazette on Thursday.

The renewed three-month state of emergency will start on Friday, according to the decree.

“The armed forces and the police will take the necessary measures to confront the dangers of terrorism,” it said.

Parliament approved the initial state of emergency in April after the two church bombings claimed by Daesh that killed at least 45 people.

The state of emergency was then renewed on July 10.

The terrorist group said it was behind the bombings in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and it threatened further attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Terrorists also claimed a Cairo church bombing in December that killed 29 people.

The emergency law expands police powers of arrest, surveillance and seizures and can limit freedom of movement.

Egypt had been ruled for decades under a state of emergency, which was canceled a month before Mohammed Mursi took over as the president in 2012.

Following Mursi’s overthrow by El-Sisi, then an army chief, in 2013, a state of emergency was declared for a month after clashes between police and Islamist protesters that killed hundreds and after extremist mobs attacked Christian properties.

Source: Arab News.

Link: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1176496/middle-east.

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October 11, 2017

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian has been honored with one of the most prestigious awards granted to human rights defenders but was unable to accept the prize in person because his government has banned him from travel over his work documenting abuses.

Mohamed Zaree is one of several prominent Egyptian activists and human rights workers who are banned from travel over allegations of harming national security, part of a wide-scale crackdown on dissent that has stamped out much of the country’s once-vibrant civil society.

The Martin Ennals award is given out by 10 of the world’s leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to recognize outstanding work done at great personal risk. Zaree’s wife and daughters accepted it on his behalf at the ceremony in Geneva.

Zaree said he hopes the award will offer some protection to him and other members of Egypt’s dwindling human rights community, nearly all of whom face prosecution under sweeping laws targeting those accused of “undermining national unity.”

“We are all banned from travelling, and some have had their bank accounts frozen,” he told The Associated Press. “There is a danger for myself and my colleagues, but I believe the biggest danger is when the victims of human rights violations are denied their last hope.”

The 37-year-old Zaree leads activities in Egypt for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, which focuses on the Arab world. The group moved its base to Tunisia in 2014 after Egypt unleashed a wave of repression against such organizations following the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president the previous year.

The group has handled high-profile cases, including that of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi, who had established a foundation to aid street children in 2013 and was jailed on charges of child abuse that were dismissed as bogus by human rights groups and U.S. officials. She was released and allowed to return to the U.S. earlier this year after nearly three years in prison.

The award, named after a former head of Britain-based Amnesty, is among the most prestigious in the field. The other finalists were El Salvador transgender woman and activist Karla Avelar, and the FreeThe5KH group — five human rights defenders who were recently released after more than a year in pre-trial detention in Cambodia.

In Geneva, award founder Hans Thoolen celebrated Zaree’s “heroic” behavior in “holding the fort” nearly alone amid the crackdown on human rights organizations. “There was a very clear understanding that the Egyptian regime seems to be emboldened by the lack of action in the U.N. and by major states,” he said.

Local human rights organizations and other civil society groups played a major role in documenting abuses under President Hosni Mubarak, who resigned in the face of a popular uprising in 2011 after nearly three decades in power. Such groups continued to operate until the military overthrew his successor, the freely elected but divisive Mohammed Morsi, two years later.

But Egypt’s current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led Morsi’s overthrow, has presided over the heaviest crackdown in decades. Authorities have jailed tens of thousands, mainly Islamist supporters of Morsi but also several prominent secular activists.

The government has also pressed ahead with a law that would place heavy restrictions on civil society groups, which pro-government media outlets routinely portray as part of a foreign plot to destabilize the country.

“There is no comparison — it’s the darkest time Egypt has ever seen for human rights,” Zaree said. He said that under Mubarak “it was a fight to defend the space we had.” “Now it’s a fight for our very existence — the current regime doesn’t want to deal with any human rights organizations, political parties, activists or journalists,” he said.

Last month Ibrahim Metwally, a prominent rights lawyer who focused on the issue of forced disappearances, was himself arrested in secret, with authorities only acknowledging his detention days later. He remains in custody on charges of “spreading false news.” Metwally’s son went missing during clashes at an Islamist protest in 2013 and has not been seen since.

Police have also launched a crackdown targeting gay men after a rainbow flag was waved at a concert last month, charging over two dozen individuals with violating laws on public decency. The United States, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in mainly military aid, moved to halt or delay the transfer of nearly $300 million earlier this year, citing the country’s poor human rights record. But President Donald Trump has also praised el-Sissi as an ally against terrorism, and European countries still offer Egypt generous financing for advanced weapons systems.

As the award ceremony began in Geneva, Zaree, who was stuck in Cairo, called on Egypt’s foreign backers to do more to press for change, saying “security and human rights cannot be separated.” “It is the basis of stability — countries with economic and military relations with Egypt should make sure that the weapons they sell it are not used in human rights violations,” he said. “There must be oversight that ensures these weapons are not used against peaceful civilians.”

Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.

2017-11-01

RAFAH – Hamas handed over control of the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, an AFP journalist said, in a first key test of a Palestinian reconciliation accord agreed last month.

Nazmi Muhanna, the Palestinian Authority’s top official for border crossings, formally received control of the Rafah crossing with Egypt from his Hamas counterpart.

At a separate checkpoint with Israel, an AFP photographer also saw Hamas installations being dismantled.

At the Rafah crossing, Palestinian and Egyptian flags were flying, with large pictures of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Hisham Adwan, director of information at the Hamas crossings authority, said that Palestinian Authority employees would resume full control of the border.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, the Palestinian Authority is due to take full control of Gaza by December 1.

The checkpoints had been due to be handed over by November 1 and were seen as a first key test of the strength of the reconciliation agreement.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 when the Islamists seized control in a near civil war with Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank.

A number of issues, including the future of Hamas’ vast military wing, remain uncertain.

Multiple previous reconciliation agreements have collapsed.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85704.

October 28, 2017

The commander of the so-called Libyan Army Khalifa Haftar is scheduled to arrive in Egypt ‘s Cairo Saturday to discuss possible Egyptian airstrikes on Derna and other cities like Ajdabiya, The New Arab reported Egyptian sources as saying.

The New Arab added that a meeting between Haftar and his accompanying delegation and the Head of the Egyptian committee on Libyan affairs as well as Chief of Staff Ahmad Hijazy will take place Saturday and several issues will be reviewed.

As Egyptian fingers were pointed lately at the claim that the individuals who conducted the last attack in Wahat in Egypt came through the border with Libya, the sources added that cooperation on border security with Haftar’s forces will also be discussed, in addition to the results of Al-Sisi and French President’s talks on the Libyan crisis, the UK-based newspaper added.

It indicated that a relative alteration in Egyptian vision for the solution of Libya’s crisis has surfaced as Cairo will be pushing forth the military solution led by Haftar regardless of the ongoing UN action plan implementation that had already started in Tunisia talks last month.

This push of Egypt sees eye to eye with Haftar‘s efforts to seize Libya including the capital’s control, which belongs until now to the UN-brokered government led by Fayez Al-Sirraj, the newspaper reports.

“Cairo has a calmer and more gradual strategy than Haftar has. While the whole world would be watching how Al-Sirraj government would lose control of the government, there will be no way to reject the real situation that will see Haftar controlling the capital and we will welcome it.” It explained.

A couple of days ago, the mouthpiece of Haftar Ahmad Al-Mismari claimed that their forces will receive a warm welcome in Tripoli as they advance militarily on the capital to “attack terrorist militias,” vowing to coordinate with Egypt in border security operations.

Source: Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/libyan-warlord-cairo-enlist-egyptian-airstrikes-derna-and-other-cities.

By Saud Abu Ramadan and Fadwa Hodali

October 12, 2017

Rival Palestinian groups agreed on Thursday to end their decade-old rift, signing an Egyptian-brokered deal that will allow a unity government to resume control of the Gaza Strip and deploy forces to the border with Egypt within weeks.

Hamas, an embattled Islamist movement which had controlled Gaza since 2007, last week handed over most government functions to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, in a first step toward ending divisions that have complicated the Palestinian bid for statehood.

Under the accord struck in Cairo, the consensus government will formally take full administrative control of Gaza by Dec. 1, according to a statement issued after the talks. The two sides have been invited to return to the Egyptian capital for more negotiations on Nov. 21. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered all state agencies to “restore the unity of the Palestinian people and institutions.”

In a joint news conference, chief Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad said the deal crucially would see the Palestinian Authority’s presidential guards deploy along the border between Gaza and Egypt by Nov. 1. If that leads to greater security, Egypt might be willing to permanently reopen the Rafah border crossing, one of the isolated coastal enclave’s few outlets to the world.

After initially shunning Hamas, the Egyptian government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi sought its help in controlling the movement of militants and weapons through cross-border tunnels between Gaza and Egypt’s northern Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate is fighting the Egyptian government — a conflict that has battered the Red Sea tourist industry.

Armed Wing

“The consensus government has to take full control in the Gaza Strip and carry out all its duties and functions in all aspects of life, running the crossing points either with Israel or with Egypt,” Fatah’s Al-Ahmad said.

There was no indication from either side, however, that any understanding had been reached on the fate of Hamas’ armed wing, a sticking point which could yet scupper reconciliation efforts. Hamas leaders have said they would not disarm as long as Israel occupies Palestinian land. Abbas has said he wants weapons to be under unified control.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week warned against any “bogus” unity bid that would threaten his country if Hamas is allowed to keep its guns. On Thursday, he said any Palestinian government must meet the conditions of the international Quartet behind peace efforts, including recognizing Israel and respecting past agreements. Israel will watch as the situation develops and will react accordingly, he said.

The willingness of Hamas to work with Fatah, which governs the Authority’s West Bank territories, comes amid desperation in Gaza, whose economy has been strangled for years by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, the destruction of its underground smuggling tunnels and wars with Israel. The destitution deepened earlier this year when Abbas engineered a power shortage to put further pressure on Hamas, which is shunned as a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.

Israeli Assertions

Gaza, which sits on the Mediterranean coast and is fenced in by heavily-patrolled barriers on three sides bordering Israel and Egypt, has been a frequent battleground over the past decade, during which Hamas has fought three wars with Israel. Abbas has tried numerous times without success to repair the rift, in part to counter Israeli assertions that peace negotiations are pointless because he can’t ensure that any treaty will also hold in Gaza.

Previous efforts to reconcile have failed due to disagreements over the fate of the weapons held by Hamas, as well as control of borders and other key institutions. This time, Hamas has gone further in offering concessions to heal the rift. As well as offering help to secure the border with Egypt, it has distanced itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, which former military chief El-Sisi removed from power in mid-2013.

Internationally isolated and with the economy in shreds, Hamas said last month it was ready to dismantle the administrative committee it set up earlier this year to run Gaza. Abbas viewed the panel as a shadow government and evidence of bad faith in the talks.

“We, in Hamas, are determined, serious and faithful this time,” Hamas negotiator Saleh Al-Arouri said at the news conference in Cairo. “This time is different to the previous times.”

— With assistance by Ahmed Feteha, Tarek El-Tablawy, Lin Noueihed, and Michael Arnold

Source: Bloomberg.

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-12/palestinians-strike-gaza-unity-deal-after-marathon-cairo-talks.

October 01, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greece’s defense minister says plans are being drawn up for joint air force drills with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Panos Kammenos’ remarks Sunday came after a military parade in the Cypriot capital to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the ethnically divided island’s independence. The parade included the overflight of a pair of Greek Air Force F-16 jets, the first showing of the Greek warplanes at the event in 16 years.

The island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said there will be no let-up in efforts to reunify Cyprus, despite July’s collapse of peace talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots. Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missiles were also put on the display at the parade.

July 3, 2017

Four years ago today the Egyptian army overthrew the country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohammed Morsi. In the aftermath of the coup Egypt’s armed forces suspended the constitution and appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, as interim head of state. Morsi and his presidential team were detained in an unknown location and later stood trial.

What: Military coup

When: 3 July 2013

Where: Egypt

What happened?

In January 2013, then army Chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi warned that the political crisis in the country might lead to a collapse of the state. Two months later the Tamarrod movement collected signatures for a petition calling for new presidential elections in light of Mohamed Morsi’s failure to restore security and fix the economy and organised mass protests to this effect.

On 30 June demonstrators took to the streets. Armed vehicles were deployed around Cairo and armed forces to areas they expected protests in support of Morsi, such as Cairo University.

Morsi warned the country that he was the elected leader and that attempts to overthrow him would lead to chaos but on 3 July he was arrested by the army and detained in an unknown location alongside other members of his presidential team.

That evening Al-Sisi set out his roadmap for Egypt in a televised statement.  President Morsi had ignored the calls of his people, he said, and therefore he was suspending the constitution, calling for early elections, putting the chief justice in charge, putting in place an interim government and setting up a committee to amend the constitution.

Opposition leader and then Vice President Mohamed El-Baradei and the Coptic Pope Tawadros II stood by his side.

What happened next?

In the weeks that followed, Morsi supporters joined mass protests and demanded his release. On 14 August 2013 1,000 people were massacred by the army in Rabaa Square where they had gathered to call for his immediate return to power.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders were prevented from leaving the country and Morsi and his presidential team were held at secret locations. In September 2013 state television announced that Morsi would stand trial for “incitement to murder and violence” during a protest between his supporters and the opposition and for ordering others to be tortured and unlawfully imprisoned.

In November 2013 Morsi and other top Brotherhood figures were put on trial for the first time. In April 2015 they were sentenced to 20 years in prison. They still face trials in a number of cases.

In March 2014, Al-Sisi officially announced his presidential bid and assumed power on 8 June that year. In the four years that have followed the coup the military-led government has inflicted a wide-scale crackdown on all members of the opposition, not just the Brotherhood.

Unprecedented numbers of people have been forcibly disappeared, tried in mass trials or military courts, given the death sentence, tortured in detention and denied medical care once detained. Children are arrested, detained with adults and sexual violence used against them. Human rights organisations and workers have been targeted as well as journalists, activists and lawyers.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170703-remembering-egypts-bloody-military-coup/.

March 12, 2017

Cairo’s population is set to grow by 500,000 this year, more than any other city in the world, adding to the pressure on an Egyptian economy struggling to recover from six years of political turmoil.

Greater Cairo, a metropolitan area including the cities of Cairo, Giza and Qalyubia, is home to some 22.8 million people and will gain another half a million in 2017, a Euromonitor International report released last week shows.

That represents a quarter of Egypt’s 92 million. The national natural population growth of 2.4 per cent per year is double the average of other developing countries, said Mohamed Abdelgalil, adviser to official statistics agency CAPMAS.

Stinging poverty in southern Egypt leads many families to have several children in the hope they can become sources of income. Those children eventually migrate to larger cities for job opportunities scarce in their hometowns.

“In rural areas, and in the south in particular, poor families have many children because they see these children as a safety net,” Maysa Shawky, the head of the National Population Council, told Reuters in an interview.

“Also, many of them have daughters until they have sons,” she added. “They want to produce breadwinners – instead of hiring a worker, they could have their children help them.”

Shawky said awareness campaigns at universities and schools have begun as part of a national population strategy.

New Capital

Internal migration is one of the main causes of overpopulation in Cairo. Egypt lists 351 slums as “unsafe”, most of them in the sprawling capital where the poorest have built ramshackle homes that lack basic amenities such as mains sewage and water. Some 850,000 people are believed to live in such dangerous slums.

“For the average citizen to not be affected by hikes in the prices of goods and services, the economic growth rate must be double the natural population increase rate,” Abdelgalil said.

Egypt’s economic growth was 4.3 per cent in 2015-2016, which is not enough to achieve that. The IMF expects it to be about 4 per cent this year, which is even less.

A new administrative capital, announced in March 2015, is intended partly to reduce the crowding in Cairo. Some 45 kilometres to the east, it will be home to government ministries, housing and an airport.

People will start moving to the as yet-unnamed new city in 2018, said Khaled Abbas, assistant to the housing minister for technical affairs. Work on 17,000-18,000 residential units is nearing completion and they will be put up for sale in April.

“Egypt’s population is expected to reach 160-180 million in 40 years. Where will all these people go?” said Abbas. “We’re also working on developing areas in northern and southern Egypt.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170312-cairo-population-to-grow-by-half-a-million-people-in-2017/.

January 10, 2017

The Russian defence ministry has reportedly announced that Egypt would send troops to Syria to observe the implementation of the truce reached between the Syrian regime’s forces and the armed opposition, according to the Israeli website Rotter.

The news website added that the Egyptian troops will arrive in Syria early next week, noting that a number of Egyptian officers had been already in Syria to pave the way for the troops’ arrival.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Egypt as a partner to join his country along with Turkey and Iran in the talks on Syria’s future and the implementation of the truce, according to Rotter.

Russia had decided to halt flights to Egyptian airports after a Russian plane crashed in October 2015 over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 217 passengers on board. The Metrojet flight crashed after its departure from the Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh International Airport.

Rotter said that for Egypt to join the trio discussing Syria’s future would be a great Russian success, which is also interesting in light of Egypt’s tense relations with Turkey on the one hand and its relations with Iran on the other.

It will be also interesting to know the US response to this step, given that the United States and European countries are not taking part in the Syria talks, the Israeli website added.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170110-citing-russian-defence-ministry-israeli-website-says-egypt-to-send-troops-to-syria-next-week/.

January 05, 2017

CAIRO (AP) — A leading Egyptian activist behind the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak was released from prison Thursday after serving a three-year sentence for violating a ban on unauthorized protests.

Ahmed Maher, who returned to his Cairo home, will remain under surveillance for three years as part of his sentence, his lawyer, Tarek al-Awadi, told The Associated Press. He will not be allowed to leave the country.

Maher, 36, was the co-founder of the April 6 movement, which used social media to bring protesters into the streets in Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations that forced Mubarak to resign in February 2011. Two and half years later, the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president and the new government banned all unauthorized demonstrations.

Maher was arrested in November 2013, and the following month he was convicted along with April 6 co-founders Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma. Each was fined and sentenced to three years in prison. Adel will finish his sentence within a month while Douma is serving a life sentence in another case and is awaiting an appeal trial in April.

The government has waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent over the past three years, jailing thousands of people. Most of those imprisoned are Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown and jailed in 2013, but the crackdown has also swept up prominent secular activists like Maher, Adel and Douma.

It’s unclear whether Maher will be able to return to activism in the current climate. Al-Awadi said the local police station charged with monitoring Maher would have wide discretion over his treatment.

“If they decide to put a lot of pressure on him, humiliate him and treat him like they treat thieves and drug dealers, they could order him to spend each night of the coming three years at the police station,” al-Awadi said.

Maher’s wife, Reham Ibrahim, welcomed his release in a Facebook post, saying “We will make up for what we missed.” The two have a son and a daughter.